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Retailers use big data to extract as much money from the consumers as they can. For consumers, doesn’t it make sense to have ready access to the right kind of information, which enables them to make smart purchase decisions. Knowing how much to pay in order to consume a particular product or service is recommended for avoiding any sort of price discrimination by the seller.
Apps and websites empower anyone to research products thoroughly, make comparisons among different sellers and buy based on the best offers. Reviews and recommendations from other buyers as well as people in their own social network circles add another layer of reinforcement/dissuasion before making that buying decision.
Online cost estimators/calculators are quite useful tools as they put the power of making informed decisions in the hands of the consumers. Although such tools won’t ensure that you don’t get fleeced by the shopkeepers, they are surely a great way of providing a reference point in terms of how much you should be paying for consuming an equivalent product or service. Here’s a list of tools that use ‘big data’ to enable smart buying by consumers:
Comparison sites – Popular price comparison sites such as Pronto and PriceGrabber are handy tools for consumers looking to compare prices across multiple merchants. According to Pronto’s website, they list 70,000 million products from around 25,000 merchants.
FlightAware Insight – There are a handful of tools that can help frequent flyers find the best price for their flights. FlightAware’s Airline Statistics tool (aka Insight) is one such tool that enables its users to find out the minimum, median and maximum prices that others have paid on particular routes.
MakeMyTrip’s Fare Calendar – A bit similar to FlightAware, Indian travel portal MakeMyTrip’s fare calendar shows the cheapest airfares available across the year for all flights operating on India’s domestic routes.
Cost of Wedding is an online calculator for estimating how much should you be spending on a wedding, given the various details. It takes care of various wedding themes and also accounts for specifics such as localities, table gifts or reception food.
Homewyse – for those looking for home repairs, HomeWyse has some amazing cost estimators, where you can even work out the specifics for home improvement such as framing and insulation based on market prices and your requirements.
HomeAdvisor – Not as detailed as Homewyse, HomeAdvisor provides the average national cost (US) for undergoing a particular repair project.
Babycenter.com – Babycenter.com has a tool which allows parents to calculate the approximate costs based on geography and household incomes to ascertain how much amount of money you need for raising a child. It incorporates factors such as housing, food, transportation, school, college, clothing and healthcare in the calculation.
College Savings – Talking about education, CollegeSavings.org’s tool allows its users to estimate the projected fees that will be required at the time a student becomes eligible for college education. You can even budget for a college tuition inflation percentage between 1 to 15 percentage points for getting a realistic and more conservative estimates.
Repairpal – Repairpal’s auto repair estimator tool lets you figure out how much you should be paying for repair or scheduled maintenance of your vehicle in terms of cost of labor and the cost of spares. You can narrow down to your car’s specific model and zip codes for a more precise estimation.
TaxiFareFinder – This iPhone app (available on iPad and their website as well) lets you find the optimum fare that you should be paying for a taxi ride in your city. It supports most of the major cities worldwide and also takes care of the level of traffic and alternative routes while approximating the costs.
Today’s empowered consumer is no longer dependent on the local market as she is able to tap into global sellers almost instantly and has the power of comparing prices, features, reviews and recommendations without having to interact with the sellers. Clearly, the power now lies in the hands of the consumer and the onus of being responsible and just lies on the seller.